Director of IT Service Delivery- Mentor, Kirk Miller
This Mentor has had an interesting career path within the IT industry. He rose to a position consulting with one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the US where he was the Director of Service Delivery and a Security Operations Manager. But like many young people, he started out on another career path before he got his engineering degree. His article contains a number of personal experiences and suggestions for the best ways to prepare yourself for a career in this field and suggestions about entry level jobs and the experience you need to have to advance in an IT engineering career. All engineering careers offer one of the highest starting salaries and lifetime earnings. IT is also one of the categories within the engineering profession with the highest projected growth.
My career path is in some ways common and in other ways different than many people in IT positions. I pursued a college degree in something that interested me, the outdoors. I enrolled in classes and finished a degree in Resource Management. By Resource Management, that meant environmental resource management, such as forests and National parks. I ended up working in sales and marketing for a Fortune 500 company for a few years and knew I had to obtain true skills to compete in the job market now and in the future. In my case, I went back to school for Computer Engineering, which is similar to Electrical Engineering except the elective courses are in software development. While in school I began to learn about Windows Servers and how to administer permissions and users. My programming classes used Unix, so I began to learn about that operating system, OS, as well. That led me to Linux and all the flavors of that OS that I learned in my off-time.
Before I graduated, I found an internship with an Engineering company. My role was for software development and also to administer 12 servers, which to me sounded like a large number. At that time I learned about administering, troubleshooting and upgrading, mail server, SQL database servers, Active Directory, AD, Domain Controllers, firewalls switches and routers. These tasks were much more interesting than writing code in C, C++ and C# .NET. I ultimately ended up consulting at a large company with over 40 thousand systems and 70 thousand users. There are tasks I like about both small and large environments, so do not think that more systems is always better. With more systems you lose some of the responsibilities you once had at a smaller organization. I started out as a Security Analyst, was promoted to Manager and then was hired as the Director of Service Delivery consulting at a large pharmaceuticals company
Responsibilities of the Position
As a Director of Service Delivery you are responsible for your teams you manage, accumulating, understanding and presenting data up the chain to the COO, and working with the onsite business Managers, Directors and other company employees. My experience as a Director was with a Fortune 200 Pharmaceutical company. The requirements for detailed work, solid documentation that conformed with ITIL standards and professional interaction with our team and the host company teams. I started onsite as a Security Analyst, working with state of the art products and equipment. From there I was promoted to Service Deliver Manager, SDM, of our security team. I served a team of varying size but approximately 12 security analysts. Our work involved projects to vet security products, architect security processes and procedures, and implement the projects. I also ran a Security Operations team continually viewing the threat level, incoming traffic, viruses and other threats. I was then promoted to Director of Service Delivery managing approximately 60 employees onsite and keeping my security management role. Security is my passion and I wanted to maintain my role and serve my team and the customer.
For the Director of Service Delivery I used skills from a previous career in sales and marketing, which helped to work with my teams. However, my main form of leadership is what I call Servant Leadership. The servant role comes from a Biblical perspective to server others. I am there to help my teams succeed by serving them and working with them. However, I am disciplined and have priorities that need to be followed and changes that may occur that require a swift adjustment on our teams and I must make that known.
This is IT, so it is constantly changing. Even as Director it is imperative to keep up with the trends of the industry and the specifics of our offerings. There is always additional training and education to give yourself an advantage. I have a B.S. in Computer Engineering as well as various security certificates and an advance architecture certificate. There are companies that treat credentials, such as an MBA, Master of Business Administration over proven successful experience.
I loved my role as the Director and it fit my strengths and desires. I like to be in a situation where I know the overview of the situation, so I can dial in when necessary. With technical teams, the host company relies on our teams to keep their systems and networks running. If there is a loss of access on a network or an application that information travels up through several levels of Directors, Junior VPs, Senior VPs and even to the CEO and CISO, Chief Information Security Officer. What I like best about the role is to keep our teams staffed properly, trained, motivated and working as an effective unit. Brining a solid team together on a mission critical technical role is one of the most satisfying aspects as a Director.
One example of a serious event, which ended up being low risk to the company was a well know virus that was brought into the organization by a vendor’s low tech product. The vendor’s product was brought in with an older version and specialized lower end of an operating system, which runs computers. They did not update their systems and this threat infiltrated several production machines in the company, and lit up our security sensors for various products and logging applications. At first the threat seemed high and the event made it’s way up to the CEO and CIO, Chief Information Officer, because some in the business unit overreacted and thought the entire network was affected. Because it flowed all the way up to the CEO and CIO we were in for a long reporting phase, discussions and several presentations. As Director I quickly was notified of the event and made my way to the secure Security Operations Center. We analyzed the data and determined the sources. The threat was downgraded and the vendor notified with harsh deadlines to update and verify product versions. The risk to the company was low and within a couple of days of meetings, emails, face to face discussions and large presentations the security event was over.
Another example, that did turn out to be a real event was during business hours when no outside organization could connect in to the company network. This was a Fortune 200 company so there were many external federated clients that worked daily within the company network. Without outside federated access by companies into the network business was severely impacted. Teams were notified and managers, director and VPs were aware of the situation and asking for updates at least every 15 minutes. We were in high impact mode and working with the vendor and working the issue ourselves. As Director I spoke with our team, as well as several of the parties responsible for the service to provide updates and expected return to normalized service. Ultimately the service was down for several hours and the final determination was that it was a vendor misconfiguration that dropped the service. With a return to service, that does not mean the event is over. Many in the organization still held the belief that because the service was down and we were responsible for that service, that is was an issue with our delivery or expertise. Therefore meetings, emails and face to face discussions were necessary to tactfully explain the true event.
As with all positions, there are challenges or requirement you may dislike. For me, the reporting was my challenge to gather the data for presentation. With this challenge I tasked one of my talented team members to gather the required statistics and massage them into a structure that I wanted. From that data I then analyzed the data, prepared reports and presented them if necessary or sent them by email.
To reach the level of Director or higher, it is necessary to produce positive results, interact professionally up and down the employee ladder and have a passion to succeed. Advanced college degrees are helpful to reach the higher rungs of business, but are not always necessary. There are experiences that can replace college degrees, but it usually depends on the company and what they find more competitive for their company.
If you are organized, have a heart to help and lead people and can present information to your teams and to the executive organization you will succeed. I found my Director role to be satisfying and rewarding. It is a position to foster change in processes and procedures, mentor and monitor employees and managers. It is also a position of responsibilities and hard expectations. Many people are counting on you to deliver a quality service, including the host company and your employer. The position requires some longer hours to work through situations, talk with an employee and prepare reports and presentations. The negatives and challenges of the role are easily outweighed by the access to information, the ability to implement change in the business and serve my teams.
Compensation varies for a Director role because it may be a quick advance in some companies with many layers of roles or it may be a hard fought role with few other Directors. The compensation for a Director of Service Delivery may range from $110,00.00 to $125,000.00. Technology careers are everywhere and there are two ways to move up. You can take a technical path up or you can take a management path. Each path can match salaries easily over six figures.